31 August 2010 | Michael_Elliott
Great Cast, Disappointing Laughs
Captain Hates the Sea, The (1934)
** (out of 4)
Disappointing comedy has pretty much been forgotten by everyone except for die-hard film buffs who will probably remember the film not for its quality but due to it running over budget thanks in large part to a cast full of drunks who spent more time drinking than actually acting. The GRAND HOTEL type story takes place on a ship where we get several small stories including a P.I. (Victor McLaglen) tracking some stolen bonds, a writer (John Gilbert) suffering from alcoholism and of course a Captain (Walter Connally) who is constantly making the life of his steward (Leon Errol) a mess. For a comedy this thing really lacks any laughs and perhaps the funniest quote took place off the film. If legend is true, Columbia president Harry Cohn telegraphed director Milestone saying, 'Return to studio. The cost is staggering.' The director would reply, "So is the cast!" Who knows if that's the truth or not but it's certainly funnier than anything else in this film, which is a shame because we're given a very talented cast and most turn in fine performances but in the end there's just not much anyone could do with this screenplay. Considering the troubled production, who knows if there was more to this story that hit the cutting room floor but we're left with a pretty big mess. It seems that the film struggles to connect all the stories but that doesn't matter too much because none of them are overly interesting. I'd say the most interesting one deals with Gilbert but at the same time you have to question why he was given this part. Well, considering John Barrymore was a major alcoholic and ended up spoofing it in his later films I guess you can see why director Milestone would want Gilbert for this role. He certainly looks in pretty rough shape and appears to have aged fifteen-years from what he looked like in a few of his earlier talkies but at the same time he's certainly giving it his all and actually manages to turn in a memorable performance, which would be his last. McLaglen will put a smile on your face in a few of the scenes as will Errol who is constantly getting into trouble. Alison Skipworth, Donald Meeks, Wayne Gibson, Fred Keating and Helen Vinson are some of the supporting performers and they too deliver fine work. The Three Stooges appear as band members but the studio gives them very little to do. In the end, this is a real disappointment considering the talent involved but I'm sure film buffs will get some mild entertainment out of seeing all these familiar faces in one place.